Gender Does Not Equal Genre

Massachusetts punk trio Potty Mouth is a modern reincarnation of the 90s alternative music scene. Although they draw many of their musical influences from the 90s feminist Riot Grrrl movement, this band deserves to be recognized for their talents and not as an anomaly, the fate most commonly pinned to girl-fronted bands. Potty Mouth is paving the path for a new era of female musicians. Even their merch shirts are a prime example of that, proudly stating “Gender Does Not Equal Genre.” It a shock and an inspiration to see a band from such unassuming DIY beginnings skyrocketing onto the radar of Alternative Press, Elle and Nylon Magazine, as well as landing a spot on the widely popular Lollapalooza Festival lineup. DIME sat down with lead vocalist/guitarist Abby Weems, bassist Ally Einbinder and drummer Victoria Mandanas on a sweltering Atlanta afternoon to talk about misogyny in the current music scene, shaking up the status quo and one of their favorite bands, Veruca Salt.

JENN DEVEREAUX: Potty Mouth is definitely an interesting name for a band. How did you come up with it?

ALLY EINBINDER: Well, Phoebe, our original guitarist, just thought of it on the toilet, and it was during a summer where we were trying to change our name. That was the only thing where we were all like, “Ok, yeah, I can live with that.” <laughs>

JD: Two years after releasing your full length album Hell Bent in 2013, you released your self-titled EP. What made you decide to go with an EP instead of another full length album?

ABBY WEEMS: It was just kind of our way of testing the waters. We had so much new material that we definitely could have released a record, but we weren’t really in a position to label-wise so we just put an EP out with the five best songs that represented where our new direction was going. We are working on a record now, so it’s coming.

JD: Your music seems very 90s inspired. Was that always the intention or did it just happen organically?

AW: It was definitely organic. When we first started, we didn’t even know what kind of band we wanted to be. It was very loose, and I think it was just inspired by the kind of music that we listened to. I know for me, personally, just getting into bands like Veruca Salt, Juliana Hatfield and Hole were all really inspiring.

JD: Back in the early 90s, as the alternative rock scene started to grow into the mainstream, many of the bands that led the charge received a lot of backlash from critics saying they had ‘sold out.’ Do you think this happens a lot in the punk scene as bands grow and have more opportunities with recording and touring? Have you had any personal experience with it?

AE: Yeah, I think this concept of selling out is something that gets projected onto bands all the time, especially self-starting bands that grew out of a punk scene. Like our band, we came from a basement punk scene. Our first show was in a basement, and we booked all of our own tours the first two years. I think that is something that’s also easier to say about bands with women than it is about bands with men. It’s just another example of how misogyny is woven into the fabric of rock music culture. You know, Nirvana was a band that started out, like, as a basement band of young boys doing it just to do it, and they became the biggest band in the world. I’m sure there were plenty of people who said they sold out, but they are still so highly regarded and they’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No one is really questioning their legacy. If anything, they probably weren’t well prepared for the kind of success that came their way.

AW: It seems like they are almost more well respected for it being punks that made it big than it being punks who sold out. I just think the idea of selling out is bullshit. It’s another way for people to say, “Well, they’re only successful because they sold out.” No, we are successful because we made a choice for this to be our lives.

AE: Also the concept of selling out rests on the assumption that if you make it big, you’re somehow just conforming to the status quo or the dominant cultural way of doing things, but it’s not black and white. There are ways to gain more mainstream success and still stay true to yourself or even shake up the status quo. If you have a bigger platform to work on with your band, you have a bigger voice to say what you want to say. Its an opportunity to challenge things.

JD: So obviously the band loves Veruca Salt, and since they are my all-time favorite band, I thought I’d ask a few quick questions about them. So what is your favorite VS song?

AW: Hmm, maybe Volcano Girls. Ugh! I don’t know. I just like all of the Eight Arms to Hold You album.

JD: If Veruca Salt could cover one of your songs, which one would you want it to be?

AW: I feel like they would do a good job covering Creeper Weed or The Bomb.

JD: Abby, you had the opportunity to write with Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt recently.

AW: Yeah, I was in the studio with them in LA for a day to try out writing, and it was cool. They brought a song to the writing session, and they were like, “Oh! What if we did something like this?” and I was like, “That sounds very Veruca Salt. I don’t think I could get away with writing something that blatantly sounds like Veruca Salt.” It turned into me bringing a song to the table, and they were tweaking it. It was fun just to get to hang out with them and get to know them. Writing sessions are always interesting, but it definitely felt more like hanging out.

JD: What was the best advice they gave you?

AW: When we were writing I was like, “Does this sound too much like Sheryl Crow?” and Louise was like “Fuck it! It sounds good, just do it.” <laughs>

JD: How did you guys meet and eventually form the band?

AE: Victoria and I met because we went to college together in Western Massachusetts. At the time, we didn’t know Abby. She was in high school, but through our original guitarist Phoebe [Harris], she knew Abby through mutual friends, and we always had an interest in playing music together, so we pretty much met Abby at our first practice in 2011.

JD: Abby, you went straight out of high school and into a band. How supportive were your parents?

ABBY WEEMS: I was still in high school when we started the band, and at first we were just doing it for fun. It was something we would do after I would get out of sports or on the weekends. I was thinking about going to college, and I did take a gap year. Eventually I just realized I would not be happy if I went to college at that time, so then I told parents and they were really supportive. I know they’ve always been like, “As long as you go to college eventually,” but at this point we had just been doing so much with the band that I think they are just really proud of me and excited that I’ve been able to make this my life.

(After JD: Two years after releasing your full length album Hell Bent in 2013, you released your self-titled EP. What made you decide to go with an EP instead of another full length album?)

JD: Do you have an expected date for that album?

AE: 2017

AW: Yeah, early 2017.

JD: Speaking of successes, you guys recently performed at Lollapalooza, was that your first big festival?

AE: Yeah, it was! I mean, it was our first time even attending a big festival. It was very strange, and it was cool.

JD: You had mentioned Veruca Salt being one of your musical influences, and there is a documentary they are featured in called ‘Out of the Loop’ that really hits on the Chicago music scene and how these bands handled their instant success and the criticism they received on the way up. Has your band experienced something similar?

AE: I hadn’t heard about that documentary, and now I want to see it because it’s interesting to think about these tense relationships that really grow from the local scene in which a band originated from and how that scene then thinks of them as they gain more success and as they become bigger than that local scene. We’ve experienced that, but I’ve also talked to bands who are older than us. It’s a pattern, and it happens all the time. It’s kind of a weird ownership that local scenes feel for their band, and I don’t really feel like anyone is entitled to that ownership. I definitely think that where we came from was good for us when we started because it was small and there were plenty of opportunities to play shows. It wasn’t like being in a band in New York City, where you are competing with hundreds of bands trying to do the same thing. It’s easy to stand out when you come from a smaller area, but then there’s also this idea that your community thinks you’re somehow turning your back on them when you get successful, and that’s not true.

AW: Yeah, it’s like there is some sort of weird debt to be settled. And coming from a small place, it definitely feels more personal because people think, “Why not me? Why didn’t that happen to me?”

AE: Jealousy is rooted in this concept of scarcity, like there isn’t enough good stuff to go around for everyone, and that’s just a mentality that keeps you down because you can never really be happy for anyone else’s success. I try to work on that with myself. We’ve worked really hard as a band and a lot of great unexpected things have happened, and I feel so lucky and appreciating everything that has happened to us has made me a less jealous person. I’m not threatened by another band’s success, and it’s just cool to see it happening.

JD: What is one skill you wish you could master?

AW: Ooh! I wish that I could solo. Also I want to be able to drive a racecar.

AE: Umm…that’s a hard question. There are so many things I wish I could do. I play bass so I wish I was really good at guitar. I also wish I could sing, because I think it would be fun to have a good singing voice.

VM: I wish I could play another instrument.

JD: If the band could be on any 90s movie soundtrack, which one would it be?

AW: I know someone said that our music would fit well for 10 Things I Hate About You, which I like.

JD: What’s the craziest experience you all have had touring so far?

AE: Just last night was wild! We were watching L7 from the side of the stage, and Kathleen Hanna was sitting right next to me, and I just had this moment where I almost felt like crying because I never ever imagined in my life that I would be in that position, where I’m watching L7 in 2016 side stage. I felt so inspired in that moment having Kathleen Hanna right there because I started listening to those bands way before I even played an instrument.

AW: It totally felt like when you are at a family reunion, and it’s your grandma, and then your mom and then you. That’s how it felt.

(After JD: If the band could be on any 90s movie soundtrack, which one would it be?)

JD: I could see the band on the Jawbreaker soundtrack too.

AE: Jawbreaker, yeah! Thats a good one.

JD: How do you entertain yourselves on tour?

AE: We’re jokesters, and we have a lot of fun.

VICTORIA MANDANAS: I’m a little stinker. <laughs>

AW: We sometimes do prank calls from the van.

AE: When you’re touring the US and you have long drives every single day, there are definitely days when hours and hours will go by and no one will be saying anything in the van. We will all be listening to music on our headphones or on our phones. But then we are a band that’s actually friends with each other ,and there’s just a lot of joking and laughing.

AW: It’s like a moving sleepover.

Written by

A Mississippi native, Jennifer grew up with a camera in her hand and a passion for music. She moved from Starkville to Hattiesburg in 2006 and while working at a large electronics retailer, soon began pursuing her dream of photographing some of the biggest names in music history including, Paramore, KISS, Slash and Foo Fighters. When she is not in the photo pit shooting rock stars, she’s skating on the flat track as a veteran jammer for the Hub City Derby Dames or helping take care of her three mini me’s with her husband, Scott.

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